|Regions with significant populations|
|All parts of Australia including urban, rural and regional Australia|
|English • Welsh • Irish • Scottish Gaelic • Cornish|
|Christian (Roman Catholic and Anglican)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|European New Zealanders|
The British Government initiated European settlement of the Australian continent by establishing a penal settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788. Between then and 1852, about 100,000 convicts (mostly tried in England) were transported to eastern Australia. Scotland and Wales contributed relatively few convicts.
Native-born Australians of British and Irish descent were approximately a quarter of the population of the colony of New South Wales in both 1817 and 1828.: 17 There were slightly more native-born than free settlers in 1850. They were nearly half of the population in 1868. Their proportion of the population decreased during the times of the rapid population growth brought on by the goldrushes.: 17 The convicts were augmented by free settlers, including large numbers who arrived during the gold-rush in the 1850s. As late as 1861, people born in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland outnumbered even the Australia-born population. The number of settlers in Australia who were born in the United Kingdom (UK) peaked at 825,000 in 1891, from which point the proportion of British among all immigrants to Australia steadily declined.[clarification needed]
Until 1859, 2.2 million (73%) of the free settlers who immigrated were British.
From the beginning of the colonial era until the mid-20th century, the vast majority of settlers to Australia were from Britain and Ireland, with the English being the dominant group, followed by the Irish and Scottish. Among the leading ancestries, increases in Australian, Irish, and German ancestries and decreases in English, Scottish, and Welsh ancestries appear to reflect such shifts in perception or reporting. These reporting shifts at least partly resulted from changes in the design of the census question, in particular the introduction of a tick box format in 2001.
Those born in the United Kingdom were the largest foreign group throughout the 20th century. Prior to the last quarter of the century, the United Kingdom was strongly favoured as a source country by immigrant selection policies and remained the largest single component of the annual immigration intake until 1995–96, when immigrants from New Zealand surpassed it in number. However, their share of the total immigrant population is in decline. Those from the United Kingdom comprised 58 per cent of the total overseas-born population in 1901, compared to 27 per cent in 1996. An even greater decline has occurred for those born in Ireland. In 1901, those born in Ireland comprised 22 per cent of all immigrants, while in 1996 the Ireland-born represented just 1 per cent of the immigrant population.
While those born in England have formed the largest component of the British immigrant population, Australia has also received significant numbers of immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Up until the First World War the Irish were, in their own right, the second largest immigrant population.
The most dramatic increase in the British immigrant population occurred between 1961 and 1971. The number of British-born people living in Australia exceeded one million at the 1971 Census and has remained above one million to this day. The United Kingdom-born population in Australia reached a peak of 1,107,119 in 1991.
This section needs to be updated. The reason given is: 2016 census results should be available.(January 2018)
The 2011 Census recorded 1,101,082 United Kingdom-born people in Australia, an increase of 6.1 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 274,821 followed by Western Australia (230,418), Queensland (214,329) and Victoria (213,377).
Historical immigration, 1881–2016
Figures below show the proportion of British and Irish immigration per official census.
|UK / Ireland-born population of Australia 1881–2016|
% of all overseas-born
% of all overseas-born
Number of Anglo-Celtic Australians
|Anglo-Celtic proportion in Australia 1846–1999|
|Year||Population||% of Australia|
|Source:1846, 1996, 1999, 2016|
Anglo-Celtic is not a category in the Australian census. At the 2006 Census of Australia respondents could nominate up to two ancestries (although 65% of respondents nominated just one). Out of a total of 19,855,288 responses, 6,283,647 (31.6%) responses indicated English ancestry, 1,803,740 (9.1%) indicated Irish ancestry, 1,501,204 (7.6%) indicated Scottish ancestry, 113,242 (0.7%) indicated Welsh ancestry, 1,864 (0.01%) indicated Manx ancestry, and 5,686 (0.3%) indicated British ancestry.
The United Kingdom remains the leading source of immigrants to Australia. In 2005–06 22,143 persons born in the United Kingdom settled in Australia, representing 21.4% of all migrants. At the 2006 Census (excluding overseas visitors) 1,038,165 persons identified themselves as having been born in the United Kingdom (5.2% of the Australian population), while 50,251 identified themselves as Irish born. The Anglo-Celtic element in the population is expected to drop to 62 percent by 2025.
Between 1987 and 1999, the Anglo-Celtic component of Australia's population declined from 75 per cent to 70 per cent. In 1999, the Anglo-Celtic share of the Australian population was calculated as 69.9%.
A 1996 study of the ethnic origins of the Australian people shows:
- 12,438,600 people had English origins.
- 5,454,200 people had Irish origins.
- 5,393,800 people had Scottish origins.
- 768,100 people had Cornish origins.
- 727,800 people had Welsh origins.
- 46,600 people had Manx origins.
Just over three-quarters of the Australian ancestry group stated no other ancestries. Among the 24% who did report another ancestry, the ancestries most commonly stated were English (reported by 13% of the total Australian ancestry group), Irish (3%), Scottish (1%), German (1%) and Italian (1%). The number of people reporting Australian ancestry in 2001 was almost double the 3.4 million (24% of the population) who gave Australian as their ancestry in the 1986 Census. This reflected a shift to reporting Australian ancestry among Australian-born people with Australian-born parents. Among these people, the proportion stating Australian ancestry increased from 33% to 56%, making this the group most likely to state Australian ancestry in 2001. There was also a substantial increase in reporting of Australian ancestry among Australian-born people with one parent born in Australia and one born overseas. Of this group, 33% stated Australian ancestry in 1986 and 49% in 2001. The explicit inclusion of Australian as an ancestry response in the 2001 Census (through its inclusion among the tick box answers) seems likely to have influenced this change. However, a real change in cultural affiliations may also have contributed. Compared with 1986, some people may have placed more value or relevance on their Australian affiliations and less on historic ties to England.
Tasmania could have the nation's highest proportion of citizens of Anglo-Celtic origin, possibly as high as 85 percent. On the evidence of statistics of ethnic derivation Tasmania could also be considered more British than New Zealand (where the Anglo-Celtic majority has fallen below 75 percent).
Ancestry was first included as a question in the 1986 Census. The aim of the question was to measure the ethnic composition of the population as a whole. Very little use was made of the ancestry data from the 1986 Census. As a consequence, ancestry was not included in either the 1991 or 1996 Censuses. In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that United Kingdom-born people reported were English (866,717), Scottish (173,804), Irish (98,728) and Welsh (36,364).
|Ancestry||1986||% of Pop.||2001||% of Pop.||2006||% of Pop.||2011||% of Pop.||% Change 2006–2011|
|English||6,607,228||42.4%||6,358,880||33.9%||6,283,647||31.6%||7,238,533||33.7% - 36.1%||+15.2%|
|Welsh||no data||no data||84,246||no data||113,244||0.6%||125,597||0.6%||+10.9%|
|Total||8,250,429||52.9%||8,902,899||47.0%||9,701,827||48.9%||11,244,552||53.0% – 55.4%|
The number of people reporting "Australian" ancestry has increased with a large amount of these people having Anglo-Celtic or British origins with ancestors being in Australia for generations. In 2001 the figure almost doubled the 3.4 million (21.8% of the population) who gave Australian as their ancestry in the 1986 Census.
|Ancestry||1986||% of Pop.||2001||% of Pop.||2006||% of Pop.||2011||% of Pop.||% Change 2006–2011|
Controversy and criticism
Some have argued that the term is entirely a product of multiculturalism that ignores the history of sectarianism in Australia. For example, historian John Hirst wrote in 1994: "Mainstream Australian society was reduced to an ethnic group and given an ethnic name: Anglo-Celt."
According to Hirst:
In the eyes of multiculturalists, Australian society of the 1940s, 150 years after first settlement, is adequately described as Anglo-Celtic. At least this acknowledges that the people of Australia were Irish and Scots as well as English, but it has nothing more substantial than a hyphen joining them. In fact a distinct new culture had been formed. English, Scots and Irish had formed a common identity – first of all British and then gradually Australian as well. In the 1930s the historian W.K. Hancock could aptly describe them as Independent Australian Britons.
The Irish-Australian journalist Siobhán McHugh has argued that the term "Anglo-Celtic" is "an insidious distortion of our past and a galling denial of the struggle by an earlier minority group", Irish Australians, "against oppression and demonisation... In what we now cosily term "Anglo-Celtic" Australia, a virtual social apartheid existed at times between [Irish] Catholics and [British] Protestants", which did not end until the 1960s.
The term was also criticised by the historian Patrick O'Farrell as "a grossly misleading, false, and patronising convenience, one crassly present-oriented. Its use removes from consciousness and recognition a major conflict fundamental to any comprehension not only of Australian history but of our present core culture."
Streams of migration from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to Australia played a key role in Australia's cultural development, despite the last substantial scheme for preferential migration from Britain to Australia ending in 1972. There is a long history of cultural exchange between the countries and Australians often use Britain as a stepping-stone to international success. In 1967, British migrants in Australia formed an association to represent their special interests: the United Kingdom Settlers' Association, which subsequently became the British Australian Community.
"Australians feel at home in the United Kingdom and Britons feel at home in Australia. Most Australians have some of their ancestry at least from the United Kingdom and five per cent of Australians were actually born in the United Kingdom. The culture, the laws the traditions of Britain were brought to Australia with the European settlement, British settlement that were brought as part of the heritage of the men and women, including my forebears, that founded what we know today as modern Australia".
Also included in the speech:
"We are family in a historical sense. We’re family in a genetic sense".
Place names of British origin
There are many places in Australia named after people and places in the United Kingdom as a result of the many British settlers and explorers; in addition, some places were named after the British royal family.
New South Wales
- Hyde Park – was named after the original Hyde Park in London, England and is the oldest public parkland in Australia
- Newcastle, New South Wales – is named after Newcastle, England
- The state capital city of Sydney is named in honour of English politician Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney.
- The state capital city of Darwin. A Scottish naval officer named the region "Port Darwin" in honour of English naturalist Charles Darwin.
- The state capital city of Adelaide founded in 1836, is named in honour of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to King William IV.
- Hobart – city named after the English politician Robert Hobart 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire who was British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in 1804 at the time of its settlement..
- Launceston – was named in honour of the New South Wales Governor Captain Philip Gidley King, who was born in Launceston, Cornwall, England.
- Melbourne – was named in honour of William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister, and thus indirectly takes its name from the village of Melbourne, Derbyshire, England.
- Perth – The city is named after Perth, Scotland, by influence of Sir George Murray, then British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. in Murray's honour.
- Norfolk Island - Captain James Cook named it after Mary Howard, Duchess of Norfolk (c. 1712 – 1773).
- Cornish Australians
- Demographics of Australia
- English Australians
- European Australians
- Europeans in Oceania
- Irish Australians
- Scottish Australians
- Welsh Australians
- British diaspora
- Precise data on the 'Anglo-Celtic' population is unknown. The Australian census bureau of Statistics first asked the ancestry question in 1986. Census data for the ancestry of the total population is not precise due to millions of Australians self-identified as just 'Australian' on the census. However, most likely to be of old Colonial Anglo-Celtic stock.
- The Australian Bureau of Statistics has stated that most who list "Australian" as their ancestry are part of the "Anglo-Celtic" group.
- Ireland was historically a part of Britain. See: Ireland: Union with Great Britain.
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